A rose is a rose is a…

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IMG_20171129_104111525_HDRI transplanted a couple of roses earlier this fall. Actually, I pulled up two that bloomed only once a year with little-to-no scent and replaced them with two that have a much longer blooming season, amazing scent, and a special place in my heart. The new roses have acclimated beautifully and even began to throw some blooms my way late in the season. I’ve been sharing pictures of one of the later blooms with a nearby friend. It’s been too beautiful to keep to myself. She saw it in person at about the third-photo stage.

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I told her that it would change colors as it matured, but even though I’ve seen it over and over again, I’m absolutely certain that I didn’t communicate exactly how much the change would be or how much it always delights me to see it happen.

Some things have to be seen to be believed.

This rose (“Rio Samba” by Weeks Roses) changes size, shape, color, and the scent–which they mistakenly call “light”–seems to get a little “louder” the more time it spends on the bush. (kind of like me! Ha!) The late blooming season isn’t unusual for this rose. One year, my mother and I decorated the wedding cake for my Cousin Reyna and covered it up with blooms grown at the corner of my house in Mississippi…on Thanksgiving DAY! (We had to thaw out the water they were held in overnight with a hairdryer, but the blooms–and the cake!–were magnificent!)

Just for your reference, these photos are of the same rose! The first photo was taken on November 15th of this year right after my friend Linda headed back to Mississippi. The final photo was taken on December 3, 2017, once I returned home from my last show of the season. I missed the one where it was covered with snow…because the snow melted almost as quickly as I noticed it and Georgia snow isn’t much for hanging around waiting on me to take my photo op! (grin) Finally, just today, I pulled the spent petals from the bush and flung them into the air where they landed in a perky array of color all around the mulch underneath the rose bush.

I always do that. It’s kind of like making a wish or sending a prayer for more. Flinging the spent, but still colorful petals is pointless to accomplish “the more”, but it always makes me smile…and that’s enough.

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As the petals arced upward today, I thought about my recent visit back to Mississippi to see family for an early Christmas. We missed having my husband and my brother with us, but my parents are doing as well as can be expected. It’s only been a few months since I’ve seen them, but the nephews are smarter, taller, and stronger. My sister and brother-in-law remain busy and productive. In short, things are going pretty much as they should be. We’re all getting older and, hopefully, wiser. We’re all changing…and we’re all the same. We still have things to accomplish and though we’re not as young as we used to be, we’re still busy “becoming” what we’re all called to be.

There’s something to be said for that.

Change doesn’t have to be scary. The same God who was in control at Creation is still busy creating. He’s still giving us opportunities for growth and watching over us as we deepen, unfurl our petals, and find our voices. I see the physical changes most in my parents and the nephews, but I know it’s happening in all of us.

Lest you know them and become alarmed, rest easy. The parents are still lively and hysterically funny. They work together to accomplish what needs to be done and continue to bless and encourage others along the way. It’s just easier to see the changes when we’re all seated at the same table these days. Each of us still has work to do and we’re going about it the best we can. The start of a life, the middle, and the winding up of it are all a part of the Plan and the Planner.

No matter what stage you find yourself in today, I hope you’ll join me in praying the verse that’s been posted around our home for over a year. It’s over the sink and on the lamp, by the desk, and in my heart:

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

The sticky notes and the one in my head are from the NKJV translation, but I also want to share the AMPC version with you, as well.

 

“And let the beauty and delightfulness and favor of the Lord our God be upon us; confirm and establish the work of our hands—yes, the work of our hands, confirm and establish it.” Psalm 90:17 (AMPC)

I hope you view these photos of the changing rose and see some of the same parallels I do with whatever season of life you’re in right now. It’s ALL beautiful! May the beauty, the delightfulness, and the favor of God be rich within you and evident in your own life as He directs the work of your hands today.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Grace and Peace!

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On those days when nothing goes right…

On the days when nothing goes right…

You still get to choose your response, be it physical, verbal or silent.
You still get to choose your words.
You still get to decide which voices to listen to.
You still get to choose how your voice will be used.
You still get to decide IF your voice should be used.
You still get to vent to trusted friends and loved ones–and you can choose to accept their comfort.
You still get to choose, to act responsibly, to take time out to be healthy and make good choices for yourself, SONY DSCand most importantly, to praise God ANYWAY!

See! You have more control than you thought. You just have to choose. I was reminded of that today, so I thought I ought to share.

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.”
Isaiah 30: 20-21

The Today Blessing

I’m cleaning out again. Still. This time it’s the table top beside my chair. Old cards, magazines, photos, pens, paints, sticky notes with prayers and verses on them, books and Bible study materials…yes, I’ve managed to amass quite the collection of treasures here.

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As I’ve sifted through all of the detritus of many yesterdays, I unearthed this poem. I’ve had it for so long that I can’t remember where I found it, so I can’t give credit where its due, but it’s too good to keep myself, so here it is, just for you in case you need reminding, too…

Living in the Present (by Helen Mallicoat, 1977)

I was regretting the past and fearing the future.

Suddenly my Teacher was speaking:

“My name is I AM.” He paused, I waited.

He continued, “When you live in the past

with its mistakes and regrets,

it is hard. I am not there.

My name is not I WAS.

When you live in the future

with its problems and fears, it is hard.

I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment,

it is not hard. I am HERE.

My name is I AM.”

Grace and Peace…and as Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there!”…because that’s where God is, too.

God and His “new things”

cropped-heart“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

I did something different this morning. I made a big breakfast and sent my husband off to work. Y’all, that is cause for serious celebration around here! (grin) It may not sound like a reason to party for most of you, but I haven’t done that in 192 days. For those of you who are counting, that’s over 6 months–over half a year!! For those of you who are really counting, that says that on Day 2 of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, my husband lost his job…and that God can have a really odd sense of humor when He decides to see if you’re serious about such a thing.

It was a shock to us. Nothing could have prepared us for the sudden and drastic change in circumstances. A business decision–nothing personal, but with no warning–suddenly severed a situation that we had come to count on for over 16 years. I guess God had decided to remind us that all we can really depend on in this world is HIM…and He’s taken His time and done that in spades.

As we’ve walked through the past few months we’ve discovered (or maybe RE-discovered!) some things about our God and about ourselves. I’ve been quiet here about them as they were happening because some things are just holy in the moment and I didn’t feel like they were really mine to share yet. Some of those things are still so intensely personal that I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to tell them (and certainly not without tears!), but here are just a few of the highlights:

  • God loves us far more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes He loves us enough to send us through things we’d rather not go through in order to show us that His love is constant, without reservation, and that He has no limits to the lengths He will go to prove that–as if the cross hadn’t already proven it!
  • God is indeed Jehovah Jireh—my Provider–and YOURS! He is MORE than ENOUGH no matter what circumstances He chooses for us because He orchestrates every single day so that we can see Him in action if we will but open our eyes.
  • He is charge and He knows EXACTLY what we need…even (especially?!) when it seems like a hard thing and doesn’t make a lot of sense to us on the surface. He is more than able to meet every single need we will ever face and we can never predict how our answers will come because our God is without limits and unfathomable in His ability to surprise and delight us with when we seek HIS answers, HIS timing, and HIS glory.
  • God’s people are AMAZING!! In our initial shock and throughout our “I don’t even know what to call it because it was hard and such a blessing all at the same time–thing!!” people we didn’t even know very well went to their knees on our behalf and showered us with encouragement, while those who know us best were unbelievable in their support for us.
  • We are still a great team. We’ve always known it (HA!), but it’s still nice to see our marriage work the way it is supposed to and we are grateful for the opportunity to spend over half a year together—even as unexpected as that opportunity was for us! We made the most of it and actually had a lot of fun in the process.
  • After over 23 years of marriage, we still LIKE each other and we know how to laugh together!
  • We were, are, and will always be “the most blessed people we know” because we CHOOSE to be. Circumstances cannot affect that. We belong to God and He is the Source of all blessing, so there’s that.

There will be more to share, but for today, did you read that verse at the top? Everybody likes “a new thing.” It’s really great to be in on the new thing, but sometimes we forget that one of the most exciting things can be to actually see God make a way in wilderness and rivers in the desert…and to see those things happen, you have BE in the wilderness and in the desert. If that’s where you are today, please don’t give in to discouragement. PLEASE be open to the new thing God has planned for you and know that I can and WILL pray with you for eyes to see the new things getting ready to spring up in the midst of your hard thing.

And now, there’s just one more thing to say: “GO, GOD!!!”

A different way to worship

I was taught to do my best at everything. I was taught that when I did my best, it would be enough because I was also taught not to quit until it was enough. I was taught to pull my own weight and help others pull theirs, when needed. I was taught to play well with others and work well with a team, but mainly, I was taught to be self-sufficient.

Those are good things.

In fact, if I had a child, I’d probably make sure I taught them the same lessons. Mixed with my own natural stubborn streak, those lessons have pulled or pushed me through when others around me didn’t see how it was possible. I’m grateful for those lessons. And yet…

Those same lessons can be misapplied, as well. I know this because when I look back, I see that I often took those lessons about my physical life and tried to put them to work in my spiritual life, as well. Don’t get me wrong. Some of those lessons–especially the “don’t quit!” one–have probably been beneficial from a spiritual angle, but they don’t always translate so well. That self-sufficient thing can get me in trouble because I’ve been known to try to fix things on my own instead of asking God to do things His way. (And right now, you’re probably thinking, “Mercy! I’m so glad I’ve never done that!”…right?!…right.)

I’m still taking my time reading through Matthew. This morning, I read Matthew 15:21-28…again. This is the passage where a Gentile woman came to beg Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter…and got ignored for awhile. She persisted. The disciples begged Him to do something just to make shut her up and leave. Jesus’ response seems more than a bit rude. She begged some more and His response appears even more harsh. She persisted all the more…and “Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”

At first glance, this seems designed to reinforce my stubborn streak and applaud the level of my persistence…but not really. Here’s what caught my heart this morning as I went back and reread verse 25: “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!'” (NKJV)

Wow. This lady with a problem that was way more than she could handle on her own WORSHIPED Him by asking for help. Let that sink in a moment. Yes. Oh, my.

At the heart of it all, to worship is to ascribe worth that is due; to acknowledge the weight of something; to truly see and respond appropriately to the core value of the object of the worship. That’s what this lady did. When she asked for help from Jesus, she worshiped! She saw the core value and the worth of the One standing before her and she needed some of THAT in her life because she had discovered she could not fix it by herself.

Maybe you’re like me today. Maybe there’s something you can’t fix, either…and you’ve tried. Maybe you need to worship with me today and ask for help from the only One who can really fix it.

Father God, I’m coming to worship you in a new way today. I’m coming because I desperately need YOU to show up and fix it. I align my prayer with the woman in Your Word today and I am begging: “Lord, help me!” I am in need of things that only You can deliver. I need this handled. And if, by some measure I’m wrong about WHAT I believe I need and I am requesting what is not your best for me, then I still need, so please give me an accurate assessment of what I DO need and help me to turn to You for that, as well. Amen.

 

How Deep?

Monday afternoon:
There are times when God steps in and transforms the ordinary physicality of a place into a cathedral of words and song and prayers of praise. That kind of grace (unmerited favor–fyi: auto correct wants to make that “inherited favor” and that works for those of us who are His, right?!) snuck up on me just now. I’m sitting in a hospital. There are no stained glass windows on this hall and no choir and no anything truly spiritual but God…and those of us who believe.

I’ve been waiting. For awhile now. It feels like we’ve been here forever and, maybe, we’ll be here just that long, as well. We won’t be, but after a long night, it kind of feels like it and so I sit on this couch and wait for healing to become evident in this one I love.

Earphones in. Book open with beautifully crafted words and I am deeply involved in the story…and then the music overtook me. David Nevue’s “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” swept in and removed place and time and anything but that realization. The Father’s love is that deep…and it is mine.

Tuesday morning:
There are times (rare, of course) when even hospitals are quietened. I think that’s what woke me up. The unexpected quiet. The delightful quiet in this place of beehive-busy-ness. In the deepest dark of early morning I found myself sitting up on the side of my couch/bed and reaching anew for this modern hymn of old truth. Once again, the simple melody moved me beyond imagining…and with palms laid open before God I asked for His help to choose THIS. And then I laughed…and amended my prayer to, “Forget that ‘help me’-thing, Lord, and just DO this thing in me.”

Ahhh, the hubris that God would need my help…even to change me. And yet, I must choose. I must choose to do, to actively seek Him, to actively live Him. And so I DO choose, God. I SO DO choose…and I also wait on You to do this in me, as well. How deep the Father’s love for me…for you…for us…how vast beyond all measure. Worship. Praise. Peace.

And then someone kicked the hive. It happens.

And He is still good. He is always good.

Lyrics

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Stuart TownendCopyright © 1995 Thankyou Music (Adm. by CapitolCMGPublishing.com excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family, songs@integritymusic.com)

Cumulative

“Is it cumulative?” Not too long ago a friend surprised me with that question.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean, all of the hard things y’all have gone through…does it feel cumulative?”

“Well, no… I don’t think so. I guess it probably would if I was trying to do it all on my own, but that’s God’s job, so I guess I just never think of it that way.”

We went on to talk of other things, but that little conversational snippet has stuck with me. In fact, I’ve given it some rather serious thought over the past several weeks.  I’ve even shared it with several others, as well.

Last week was a tough one. Taxes, travel, to-do lists…those things might be trying enough, but we also learned about the passing of several friends, of heart-breaking medical news for some, of difficult personal tragedies for others, and we’re still in the waiting phase on several personal fronts. I’ve thought back to that conversation and wondered if I might have to give her a different answer if we’d had it last week, because to be completely honest…it was starting to feel cumulative…and I wondered how much more I could take. Oh, I realized that most of the difficult news we were privy to wasn’t actually OURS, but it was still very personal because it was happening to people we love and value…and I’m a fixer…and I couldn’t fix a single thing.

God wasn’t a bit surprised.

In fact, He knew I was supposed to teach Sunday School this past week and He’d already set it up for us to be in Matthew, Chapter 11, which starts off with John the Baptist in a really tight spot–prison!–and how John sent a couple of people to check in with Jesus and ask that really big question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” v. 2 (HCSB) Can’t you just hear the frustration in that question? I can…and I can relate. I’ll bet you can, too, because sometimes things are just so hard that you want to ask God where He is in all of it and why He isn’t fixing it…like, right now.

Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:  the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.  And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.”  Matthew 11: 4-6 (HCSB)

Well, would you look at that? There were some good things happening, too…right at the same time as all of those bad things. It’s that way today, as well. We have just have to look harder for them some days and not get distracted when things start to feel cumulative.

My favorite part of Matthew 11 comes close to the end, however. It’s verse 28.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. “

Oh, how I LOVE this!

  • “Come to Me”–not to a religion or a mantra or a set of rules. Come into a personal relationship with the God of the universe! What an invitation!
  • “all of you who are weary and burdened”–who isn’t that? or hasn’t been that? or will be that again? That’s ALL of us!
  • “and I will give you rest.”–verse 29 spells it out even plainer, “you will find rest for your souls.” Soul deep, abiding, permanent rest IS possible, but only when we go to Him.

And this week? The hits have just kept on coming for several of the people we love…and it’s still hard, but I’m also remembering all of the miracles in my life–and in theirs, too. I’m remembering all of the blessings because I CHOOSE TO DO THAT and because there are far more of them than there are difficulties, so they’re easier to count. And you know what that means?

They’re cumulative.